Tobacco smoke consists mainly of
- Nicotine this is not carcinogenic. However, it is highly addictive. Smokers find it very hard to quit because they are hooked on the nicotine. Nicotine is an extremely fast acting drug. It reaches the brain within 15 seconds of being inhaled. If cigarettes and other tobacco products had no nicotine, the number of people who smoke every day would drop drastically. Without nicotine, the tobacco industry would collapse.
Nicotine is used as a highly controlled insecticide. Exposure to sufficient amounts can lead to vomiting, seizures, depression of the CNS (central nervous system), and growth retardation. It can also undermine a fetus’ proper development.
- Carbon Monoxide this is a poisonous gas. It has no smell or taste. The body finds it hard to differentiate carbon monoxide from oxygen and absorbs it into the bloodstream. Faulty boilers emit dangerous carbon monoxide, as do car exhausts.
If there is enough carbon monoxide around you and you inhale it, you can go into a coma and die. Carbon monoxide decreases muscle and heart function, it causes fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. It is especially toxic for babies still in the womb, infants and indifividuals with heart or lung disease.
- Tar consists of several cancer causing chemicals. When a smoker inhales cigarette smoke, 70% of the tar remains in the lungs. Try the handkerchief test. Fill the mouth with smoke, don’t inhale, and blow the smoke through the handkerchief. There will be a sticky, brown stain on the cloth. Do this again, but this time inhale and the blow the smoke through the cloth, there will only be a very faint light brown stain.
Click here to see a longer list of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke and how they can harm you. Smoking and heart/cardiovascular disease Smoking causes an accumulation of fatty substances in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, the main contributor to smoking related deaths. Smoking is also a significant contributory factor in coronary heart disease risk. People with coronary heart disease are much more likely to have a heart attack.
Tobacco smoke raises the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When combined with other risk factors, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, physical inactivity, or diabetes, the risk of serious, chronic illness and death is huge.
Smoking also worsens heart disease risk factors. It raises blood pressure, makes it harder to do exercise, makes the blood clot more easily than it should. People who have undergone bypass surgery and smoke have a higher risk of recurrent coronary heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association
“Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for young men and women. It produces a greater relative risk in persons under age 50 than in those over 50.”
A female smoker who is also on the contraceptive pill has a considerably higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke compared to women using oral contraceptives who don’t smoke.
If you smoke your levels of HDL, also known as good cholesterol will drop.
If you have a history of heart disease and smoke, your risk of having such a disease yourself is extremely high.
A much higher percentage of regular smokers have strokes compared to other non smokers of the same age. The cerebrovascular system is damaged when we inhale smoke regularly.
Those who smoke run a higher risk of developing aortic aneurysm and arterial disease.
Further reading “What chemicals are in tobacco smoke?”
Written by Christian Nordqvist
Original article date 30 May 2004
Article updated 3 March 2011
Quit smoking: 23 ways to stop cigarettes for good
Whenever you re tempted to light up, take a look at all the ways smoking can damage your health
&bull Increases risk of lung, bladder, pancreatic, mouth, esophageal, and other cancers, including leukemia
&bull Increases risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure
&bull Increases risk of diabetes
&bull Reduces levels of folate, low levels of which can increase the risk of heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer s disease
&bull Affects mental capacity and memory
&bull Contributes to thin bones
&bull Increases likelihood of impotence
&bull Reduces fertility
&bull Affects ability to smell and taste
&bull Results in low birth weight, premature babies
&bull Increases risk of depression in adolescents
&bull Increases your child s risk of obesity and diabetes later in life if you smoked while pregnant